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The fisheries in the project area can be categorised according to their economic status and the fishing techniques used into the artisanal fishery, the semi-industrial and the industrial fishery. Fish marketing in these three sectors shows different patterns in terms of diversification, marketing channels, main species traded, flexibility, working capital and profits, with a minor degree of overlap. Therefore it appeared appropriate to structure the analysis of the marketing sector accordingly. Different methods have been used to obtain socio-economic information from all three sectors. Most attention has been paid to the artisanal sector of the fishery, because it provides income earning opportunities for the bulk of small-scale fish traders. This is the group that would be seriously affected by the implementation of any management measures that lead to a considerably reduced fishing effort (Mdaihli et al., 1992).


9.2.1 Baseline survey of fish marketing in the artisanal sector the fisheries in Lake Malawi, the Upper Shire river and Lake Malombe

A census of fish traders has never been carried out by the Department of Fisheries. Due to time and manpower constraints it was not feasible to make a comprehensive appraisal of this sector. A sample of 23 beaches was chosen, taking logistic aspects into consideration. Out of a total of 440 traders, operating on those beaches, 173 were interviewed with a previously prepared and field-tested questionnaire.

9.2.2 Survey of fish traders in the semi-industrial sector of the fishery

Because most of the traders from this sector show homogeneity in their economic performance, equipment used, marketing channels employed, target species, profits and working capital, it was decided to interview five out of the estimated total of 100 fish traders. The interviews were carried out with the, slightly modified, questionnaire prepared for fish traders in the artisanal sector of the fishery.

9.2.3 Survey of fish traders in the industrial sector of the fishery

Prior to the actual data collection, the Deputy Manager of the fishing company Maldeco was consulted to obtain information about the company's own fish distribution system and to provide the project with a list of registered wholesalers, who regularly trade Maldeco's catch. Six of these traders were interviewed using the questionnaire prepared for the semi-industrial sector.


9.3.1 Fish marketing in the artisanal sector of the fishery

(a) Fish trader distribution

Extrapolated from the fish trader counts on the sample beaches it is estimated that the artisanal sector of the fisheries in Lake Malombe, the Upper Shire area and the south-east arm of Lake Malawi is served by some 3,000 fish traders. With approximately 50 landing sites. Lake Malombe alone attracts nearly 50% of the total (Figure 9.1).

(b) Marketing channels

The following is an example which illustrates the complexity of the marketing system. Fisherman Saidi stays in a village on Lake Malombe. He operates his kambuzi seine net almost every day. He shares his catch 1 : 1 with the crew of 15 people. His own share he normally sells to five different fish traders, of which two come from his home village. These two traders sell the kambuzi, after processing, to another trader, who comes out to the beach with his pick-up once a week and who buys wholesale, transports the fish to Thyolo and sells it wholesale to a trader on the fish market, who sells it retail to consumers. Of the other three traders, one carries the fresh fish to his home town Mangochi and sells it along the road to consumers. The remaining two process the kambuzi and take it to their home villages in Dedza district, where one sells it to a market trader and the other one directly to consumers.

From the example above it can be seen, that fish trading in the artisanal sector of the fishery involves many people at different stages. Fish may change ownership many times, before it arrives at the consumer. For most traders this allows great flexibility in their marketing activities.

(c) Main target species

Small fish such as kambuzi, utaka and usipa are an important part of the total catch in the project area and the target species for the majority of the traders in the artisanal sector of the fishery (Figure 9.2). So-called “trash fish” do not exist, every fish species finds its customer. Fish processing is usually done by fish traders and includes drying (normally all small food fish such as kambuzi, usipa and utaka) and smoking (mainly the bigger fish such as chambo and kampango). Chambo and kampango are also sold fresh. Salting and icing are not common.

(d) Fish distribution patterns

Chambo, the most valuable fish caught in the project area, is mainly sold to customers in town centres such as Blantyre, Limbe, Thyolo, Lilongwe and even Mzuzu, whereas the processed small fish is sold to people all over the country.

For transportation most fish traders hitch or travel by bus. Some own bicycles (7%), motor bikes (1%) or pick-ups (2%). Traders without transport are able to hire bicycles and helpers to transport the fish, usually in sacks, baskets or cartons, from the beach to the main road.

(e) Profit and working capital

Figure 9.3 indicates that the more fish traders have to invest, the more profit they can make. It shows also that Lake Malombe, especially the western part, is a target area for many poor fish traders, whereas the south-east arm of Lake Malawi, especially MS 2.2, is frequented by rich chambo traders.

(f) Socio-economic background of fish traders, with special regard to gender aspects

Fish processing and trading is the only fishing or fishing-related activity, in which women participate. Even so, the proportion of female traders is rather low (Figure 9.4). Factors, which prevent women from taking up fish trading include the traditional patterns of labour division, the lack of start-up money and limited access to the resource.

The entry of married Yao women into fish trading is often hampered by their husband's attitude towards “business women”. A large proportion (61%) of the female fish traders are independent heads of households. An exceptional area within the project region is MS 2.3. There about 50% of the traders are females, often wives of fisherman-entrepreneurs. They trade their husbands' catch for their own account. The fisherfolk in MS 2.3 (mainly Christian Tonga and Tumbuka) depend almost entirely upon fishing. Cultivation is hardly possible for environmental reasons, and this may allow fishermen's wives time for fish trading. Furthermore, Tumbuka and Tonga traditions allow more equal division of labour than is allowed in the Muslim Yao culture. In MS 2.5 female participation in fish trading is also above average, possibly as a result of the joint effort of two German-funded development aid projects, which aim at the promotion of women in rural areas.

Figure 9.1 Fish trader distribution.

Figure 9.1

Figure 9.2 Main target species.

Figure 9.2

Figure 9.3 Mean working capital and mean profit per trading trip.

Figure 9.3

Figure 9.4 Proportions of female fish traders.

Fgiure 9.4

Fish traders in the project area operate on a retail and/or wholesale basis. A considerable number of traders are not bound to one type of trading. In this respect no difference was found between male and female traders.

Female fish traders are generally younger than males (31/38). The mean starting age (29) does not differ significantly, which suggest that female engagement in fish trading is a rather recent development or that they drop out sooner.

The mean household size of female as well as male fish traders (8 people) does not differ significantly between genders.

A small number of fish traders are illiterate (11%) and, surprisingly, 20% of the traders are not able to calculate. The proportion of illiterate female traders is considerably higher than that of males (32% versus 10%)

A high proportion of fish traders (males: 67%, females: 61%) are involved in additional income earning activities. Many of them (males: 47%, females: 54%) undertake farming during the rainy season.

(g) Marketing problems

The work of the Chambo Fisheries Research project indicates that the chambo fishery in Lake Malombe has collapsed (Van Zalinge et al., 1991). In the absence of any mitigating actions, it is expected that the catch will decline in future in other fisheries and other areas of the project region. The present developments exacerbate the economic problems faced by the fisherfolk and related businessmen and women. Consequently lack of fish supplies, together with lack of capital, high fish prices, lack of transport facilities and high transportation costs were quoted as the main problems of fish traders. In many countries, a common problem in fish marketing is a loss of profit due to fish spoilage. However, in all minor strata of the project region about 70% of the traders did not report any considerable loss within the last 12 months before the survey. Where it occurred, 40% of the traders lost more than half or all, 60% half or less the amount they had bought. Post-harvest losses occur more frequently in the rainy than in the dry season.

9.3.2 Fish marketing in the semi-industrial sector of the fishery

(a) General description

Semi-industrial fishermen in the project area catch a much smaller variety of fish than the artisanal fishermen. Their catch consist mainly of chisawasawa (85%), followed by chambo (6.6%) catfish (2%), utaka (1.8%) and a variety of other, unspecified fish (5%). Consequently, traders, who buy from those fishermen, trade mainly chisawasawa.

The fish trade shows the following patterns. All fishermen sell at a fixed price (chambo: MK 2.40/kg, chisawasawa: MK 0.60/kg; at the time of the survey), which they have agreed on among themselves. Fish traders, from inside and outside the project area, contact the fisherman and book the catch of a specific day in advance. The traders appear at the landing site in the late afternoon, wait for the fisherman to land the catch and load their (own or hired) pick-ups with fish. They preserve the fish with ice and travel straight to Limbe fish market, where they sell it to another fish trader. Fishermen allocate up to three trips a month to a single fish trader.

A small amount of the catch is sold directly to customers at the landing site or to fish traders, who process it before sale.

(b) Problems

The fish market at the beach appears to be a seller's market. Since the demand for fish on the beach is much higher than the fish supply, fishermen decide on the price and they are in the position to choose the fish trader. For altruistic reasons, they prefer to sell to a variety of different traders instead of having fixed business relationships with only two or three. Fish traders in this sector of the fishery usually do not provide loans to the fishermen, because their capital requirements are normally far beyond the amount a fish trader could provide. The other end of the marketing channel, the Limbe market for fresh fish, appears to be a buyer's market. Limbe market is the target market for traders of small fresh fish from all water bodies in the southern part of Malawi. Fish traders are forced to sell the catch quickly before it spoils. Therefore they have to accept the offered price. As a result, all interviewed traders realized only a marginal profit. A lack of other job opportunities and hope seems to keep them in business.

9.3.3 Fish marketing in the industrial sector of the fishery

(a) General description

In 1991, the industrial fishing company Maldeco caught approximately 1,600 tonnes of chambo and 1,200 tonnes of other species, mainly chisawasawa. According to the Deputy Manager of the company, Maldeco's policy is aimed at a wide coverage of fish supply. The main part of the chambo catch is sold either through the company's own marketing system (60%) or wholesale to some 40 private fish traders (35%). The company runs four trucks, which transport chambo to Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu. The company's aim is to supply fresh chambo to the supermarkets in Lilongwe and Blantyre eight times per month, and the one in Mzuzu once a week. In addition, Maldeco has recently opened two fish shops, in Lilongwe and in Blantyre. The private fish traders have to apply to be included in Maldeco's trader lists. The company checks on the target market, the transport facilities and the business experience of those traders. It is explicitly mentioned on the list, that deliveries to supermarkets and cold storages are a first priority before any fish is sold wholesale. Any customer not on the trader list has to buy chambo on a retail basis. Maldeco allocates one trading trip to each chambo trader per month.

Chisawasawa is sold either fresh to chambo traders in times of chambo shortages, or dried to a second set of wholesale traders, who are registered on a "chisawasawa list". These traders are entitled to trade 10 bags of processed fish twice per month. Any other customer, who is not on the list, has to pay retail prices, if the amount bought does not exceed 5 bags.

(b) Problems

Maldeco's fish traders complained about the company's policy of limiting the number of trading trips per month. In addition, they considered Maldeco's involvement in fish trading on a retail basis in Blantyre and Lilongwe as an increase in competition because the company is able to offer the fish at lower prices than the traders. Nevertheless, Maldeco's fish traders realize a high profit per fish trading trip (30% of the invested capital).

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